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Landis gets back on the bike

Landis racing the cross country event

Landis racing the cross country event (Image credit: Beth Schneider)

The embattled champion of the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis, toed the line for his first race since riding into Paris with champagne last year. Landis took part in the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado, racing in the men's mountain bike cross country event. While Landis is currently barred from participating in any UCI sanctioned events after he tested positive for exogenous testosterone during the 2006 Tour, the unsanctioned event was happy to include Landis in their event, and his presence drew quite a bit of attention.

Landis, racing as part of the Athletes for a Cure team will donate any of the team's winnings to the foundation of the same name. However, after his 36th place finish in the cross country event, getting in the money isn't looking so good. "I haven't suffered in a while," Landis told the Associated Press after the race, his first mountain bike race since 1998. "I figured this was a good place to start."

Landis found the event to be a welcome change of pace, despite the thrashing he incurred at the hands of his competitors - even women's winner Shonny Vanlandingham passed him. "I just get tired of having everything focused on me," Landis said. "Once I got here, it occurred to me again that it's not always like that."

Sporting a bit more weight than what he had to carry over the mountains and into the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, Landis admitted that he wasn't in the best of shape after months of touring the country holding 'town hall' meetings followed by his arbitration hearing with USADA where he finally was able to officially defend himself against the doping charges. "There were quite a few weeks when I rode a reasonable amount, 200-300 miles (300-450 kilometres) a week," he said. "Then that hearing. It was almost 10 days. I didn't ride at all. You're sitting there. The next thing you know, you're eating doughnuts and you don't even care. It was awful."

However difficult his trials and tribulations over the past year have been, racing in support of the foundation that supports the Prostate Cancer foundation put some perspective on the situation. "I can't imagine what it's like to go through that, knowing it's probably going to end your life," Landis said. "That's a lot more serious stuff than what I went through. These guys asked if I'd show up. Well, it's no effort on my part to come to a race like this. I said I'd gladly show up."

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